Haunted by an Exile
by Senator Farhatullah Babar
“THE NEWS” dated April 25, 2003
One would have thought that the formation commanders meeting last Tuesday would discuss issues of national security in the wake of war on Iraq and threats hurled by the Indian foreign Minister. Instead, General Musharaff gave the scores of generals attending the meeting a long lecture on how Benazir Bhutto had swindled money in the private power projects.
This is not the first time he has almost compulsively taken a dig at her.
The last time he compulsively derided Mohtarma Bhutto was at public meetings and not at the meeting of formation commanders.
At every public meeting in the run up to referendum the General dressed in full military regalia made colourful by wearing funny caps and flanked by corps commanders would lambaste Mohtarma Bhutto for what he used to say ‘mega corruption in the independent power projects ignoring the cheap hydel power for commissions and kickbacks and commissions’.
Then he saw in Benazir Bhutto the greatest threat to his fraudulent referendum.
When he ‘swept’ the referendum hands down he liked to believe that painting black the former Prime Minister had paid off the dividend.
A year later now, the General sees in her the greatest threat to the LFO, the National Security Council and the plethora of amendments aimed at strengthening his person rather than democracy, the parliament and the institutions.
Perhaps he was not sure whether the commanders also shared his passion for personal power through the LFO. So it was necessary to paint Bhutto, the chief opponent of LFO, black before them.
The General believes that painting Ms Bhutto black before the people won him the public support in the referendum. To paint her black before the formation commanders was therefore necessary to win their support in his battle for the LFO.
How strange are the illusions by which men, even those wearing uniform, sustain themselves.
The Bhutto government had purposely ignored cheap hydel power and built thermal plants in the private sector and gave them very high tariff only for commissions and kickbacks, he has been saying.
But such diatribe before poor and illiterate masses herded to the public meetings by district nazims is one thing; its repetition before a formal meeting of formation commanders quite another. The commanders are not as
captive an audience as those herded to public meetings by the nazimeen.
Was there no commander among those attending the meeting to ask; ‘Sir, it is right that Benazir did not add a single kilowatt of hydel power to the grid only to make a quick buck in private thermal projects but how many kilowatts of hydel power have we added to the national grid during the last three years?’
The PPP government of Benazir can even claim to have launched the over 1300 MW Ghazi Barotha hydro Power Project and arranged funding from international donors for it but what has the Musharraf government to show?
High tariff? The tariff was recommended by a sub-committee of the Task Force headed by Mr. Razzaq Dawood, the person chosen by general Musharraf as his Commerce Minister.
Did the General ever ask even once his erstwhile commerce minister the facts about the tariff?
Corruption? All IPP’s had a uniform tariff and contract terms applicable to every investor whether foreigner or local, whether affiliated with the PPP or to the opposition.
There were no discretionary powers under the 1994 power policy in the award of IPP contracts to any one on terms favorable than others. All agreements pertaining to power purchase, fuel supply and project implementation were standardized and uniformly applied to all investors.
When no extra concessions could be offered why would any investor pay anything extra?
Prior to the 1994 Power Policy, each investor negotiated the tariff and the fuel supply terms on project-to-project basis creating doubts about transparency.
Nine letters of intent were issued for projects prior to the PPP government in 1993. Each was allowed different tariff and fuel supply terms depending on who was negotiating with whom and where.
The contracts had a clause that if at any time corruption is proved then the entire project will be taken over by the government without compensation. If the projects were laced with corruption why the military government restored all the IPPs instead of taking advantage of this clause?
The military government renegotiated different tariff terms with the IPP’s but has not made public the revised contract documents.
Chairman NAB does not tire of claiming that a copy of all contracts above 50 million rupees will have to be furnished to the NAB. How many of the renegotiated tariff terms have been furnished to the NAB?
Does Chairman NAB know the story of an IPP namely M/s Rousch Power Limited located near Multan? Running on furnace oil it came on line and began producing power about two years ago in 2001. Soon after commissioning, however, M/s Rousch ran into financial trouble and began incurring huge losses and was to go bankrupt.
The chartered accountants certified that in view of accumulated losses of 2, 854 million rupees, which the company had incurred, ‘future operations are not sustainable’.
Under the terms of agreement the government should have taken over the plant and run it itself without compensation to the shareholders. It should then have converted the plant from furnace oil to gas and thus brought to the national kitty windfall gains of several hundred million dollars.
For some unexplained reasons the Finance Ministry did not exercise the take over option and quietly allowed Rousch power project to switch to gas, guaranteed it huge quantities of cheap gas enabling the company to make an easy fortune – all at the expense of the poor people of Pakistan.
But we know that NAB will not be able to look into it. After all NAB is not for eliminating corruption. It is merely a political arm of the government.
Hydropower development in the country has been held up not because of Benazir Bhutto but due to lack of consensus among provinces for construction of large dams. Remember the backtracking by Nawaz government soon after announcing to build the Kalabagh dam in the euphoria of atomic tests?
Even the constitutional guarantees to safeguard interests of smaller provinces have failed to persuade the provinces to agree to Kalabagh dam saying how they can have faith in constitutional guarantees when the Constitution itself has been repeatedly trampled under the boots.
It is due to this mistrust and not due to Benazir Bhutto that hydro potential has not been fully exploited.
That is why the power plants built during the last 25 years are thermal based. That is why all the projects that WAPDA and KESC had approved for undertaking in late 80’s and early 90’s were not hydro but thermal based.
And that is also why last year WAPDA wrote to the federal government to be permitted to set up thermal based power projects in the private sector.
The Benazir government at least succeeded in building consensus on Ghazi Barotha hydro project and made a policy decision to set up thermal plants in the private sector.
The World Bank hailed that policy as a model, to be followed and adopted by other countries describing it “as one of the —–if not the —– most straight forward and well thought over policy in place in any developing country.”
Why in spite of such formidable facts the General chose to give an entirely inaccurate account to the meeting only to run down the former Prime Minister?
It will be uncharitable to say that the chief had a dim view of the wisdom, knowledge and judgment of his formation commanders and thought he could thus mislead them for advancing his own political ambitions..
The only logical explanation is that the chief continues to be haunted by the leader of masses even though she is living in exile for the last four years?